By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters – Will Donkin was educated at a school more famous for producing Prime Ministers than professional footballers, but having played 15 times for Taiwan, the 18-year-old hopes his international experience will help him take the next step in his career.
Donkin, who went to Eton College, one of Britain’s most exclusive private schools, is looking for a new club having parted ways with Premier League Crystal Palace in June having not played a competitive senior game.
He returns to Europe this week to continue his search for new surroundings having featured for the east Asian side in World Cup qualifiers against Jordan and Nepal.
The Oxford-born attacking midfielder, who says he has offers on the table from clubs in England, China and around Europe, believes the two years he has spent playing international football will convince coaches to give him an opportunity in the senior game. “I definitely think, from the clubs that I’ve spoken to, my international experience is something on my CV that’s very interesting to them,” he told Reuters.
“For them, it’s something different to a lot of other 18- and 19-year-olds. There aren’t many my age who have that many senior international caps, so it’s definitely a good thing.
“What I’m trying to get now is experience of playing men’s senior football. I’ve been involved in that environment at international level from 16 and that’s something coaches back home and in Europe all see as a good thing, that I can make the step up. It will be easier because I’ve had that experience already.”
Donkin qualifies to play for Taiwan, who are 125th in the FIFA rankings, through his mother.
The midfielder made his international debut as a 16-year-old against Turkmenistan in November 2017, having come through the youth ranks at Chelsea before switching to Palace.
After a summer spent training with Cardiff City and Hibernian, he feels he is ready to move on from youth team football and start building a career at senior level.
“I didn’t want to sign the pro contract at Palace because I wanted to look for a club that had a better pathway to first-team football,” he said.
“I’m 18, turning 19 (in December), and I’m ready for that next stage in my development and I felt that at Palace there wouldn’t have been as many options to play first-team football.”
An increasing number of England-born players have moved to leagues in Germany and the Netherlands due to the difficulty of breaking into Premier League sides.
Donkin has sought the advice of his national team boss Louis Lancaster. He previously worked with Jadon Sancho, who has impressed since moving to Borussia Dortmund in 2017.
While he would prefer to stay in Europe, moving to China is also an option, with clubs granted spots in the squads to sign players from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau in addition to players from overseas.
“I would have the opportunity to work with some very good European managers and with or against some top foreign players who play in that league, but at the moment I’m not sure. I need to see what’s best for the next step,” he said.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Toby Davis)